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Former Ottawa City Hall

111 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2001/12/06

View of the former City Hall soon after completion in 1958; City of Ottawa Archives, 2001, Archives de la ville de Ottawa, 2001.
View of the former City Hall in 1958
Ovoid grand staircase in foyer.; City of Ottawa Archives, 2001, Archives de la ville de Ottawa, 2001.
Grand staircase
Interior of the main foyer.; Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada, Andrew Waldron, 2001.
General view of the main foyer.

Other Name(s)

Former Ottawa City Hall
John. G. Diefenbaker
John G. Diefenbaker

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1957/01/01 to 1958/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/02/14

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Situated in landscaped grounds on Green Island, in Ottawa, the Former Ottawa City Hall is a stone-clad, eight storey building designed in the International style. The building slab is fronted by a three-storey cubic volume that houses the Council Chamber. Both rise from a raised podium of monumental scale, supported on pilotis to create the impression of a floating volume. The exterior elevations are strongly geometric in design. The whole is finished in high quality, well crafted materials, including limestone panels, extruded aluminium window frames, and glass. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Former Ottawa City Hall lies in its historical associations, its architectural significance and its role as a landmark. It is associated with the assertion of municipal governance in the post-war era of urban expansion in Ottawa and was influenced by post-war concerns with creating a modern form of civic monumentality. Built concurrent with the new official plan for the city of Ottawa and during an era of development in Ottawa that was characterized by a strong federal presence, the former Ottawa City Hall responded to the administrative needs of the rapidly growing city and was the embodiment of a new civic identity.

It is an excellent example of the adaptation of the International Style to a civic facility in Canada, marking a departure from the traditional city or town hall building type and the advent of the modern civic building. It was constructed with high quality materials and finishes and exhibits a high level of craftsmanship. It is considered the best work of the architectural firm Rother/Bland/Trudeau.

The building functions as a familiar city landmark and reinforces the heterogeneous character of government buildings, embassies and upscale residences found in the area.

Andrew Waldron, Former Ottawa City Hall (Sussex Pavilion), Ottawa, Ontario. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Building Report 01-042; Former Ottawa City Hall (Sussex Pavilion), Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 01-042.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the former Ottawa City Hall include:
•elements which reflect the functions of civic government, including: the exterior massing of public, legislative and administrative spaces; the open grid plan that connects the building’s ground floor with the exterior plaza, creating a civic space; the ornamentation of the building’s exterior with publicly commissioned art work; and the cast aluminum relief panels located on the Council Chamber balcony awnings;
•elements which reflect a new modern form of civic monumentality, including the exterior massing, open grid plan, exterior ornamentation, and interior decorating elements;
•elements which reflect the influence of the International Style, including: the monumental scale and well-balanced massing of the building’s raised podium; the eight-storey horizontal slab block with its recessed observation gallery; and the three-storey cubic volume of the projecting Council Chamber with its town hall balcony; the strongly geometric exterior elevations with their distinct grid pattern and projecting cubic masonry forms integrated with the window bays; the pilotis on the ground level of the slab block, creating the impression of a floating volume, the vertical bands of windows at each end of the slab block, expressing the length-wise interior corridor; the simple, unadorned and monochromatic exterior elevations; and the well-crafted, high-quality, monochromatic materials used to clad the exterior, including Queenstone limestone panels, extruded aluminum window frames, aluminum railings, and glass;
•the hierarchy of well-crafted, high-quality interior finishes and hardware which combine traditional and modern materials, and correspond to the hierarchy of civic functions in the building. These include: the interior treatment of the ground-floor reception area, creating a reflective and monochromatic interior within a transparent envelope and distinguishing this area as a public space; the formar interior treatment of legislative spaces, consisting of warmer finishes; and the use of utilitarian, monochromatic materials in administrative spaces;
•the open relationship between the building and Sussex Drive–specifically, the massing of the raised front podium to the street level;
•the strong geometric grid pattern of the building extended to the exterior environment and expressed on the ground plan through use of hard paving in a monochromatic colour palette;
•the relationship of the two aluminum fountain sculptures to the building facade, main entrance and Sussex Drive; and the visual openness of the International Style ‘floating volume’ and its transparent interior-exterior relationship to Sussex Drive and the Rideau River.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Classified Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type



Town or City Hall

Architect / Designer

Rother/Bland/Trudeau, Moshe Safdie & Associates, Murray & Murray Associates



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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